For 15 years, Red Wanting Blue have been the very definition of indie success. The Columbus band has self-released eight albums since forming in the mid-'90s, rotated membership, toured relentlessly, and assembled a slavishly loyal fan base that follows every curve in the path. That paradigm shifts a little with the recent release of the group's ninth album, From the Vanishing Point, the first one it didn't independently release.
But before Red Wanting Blue could get to The Vanishing Point, the label that signed them in the spring of 2010, Fanatic, wanted to reissue their 2008 record, These Magnificent Miles. So instead of a new album in 2010, which was the plan, the group put things on hold while its previous full-length went through the usual new-release hoops. But they used the downtime to work out a strategy for their next record. "We set aside time for pre-production and gave ourselves time to work on the songs," says frontman Scott Terry, the band's only original member. "To be able to take time was a real treat."
Red Wanting Blue's primary concern had to do with fostering their creative evolution while reassuring longtime fans that the band (made up of Terry, bassist Mark McCullough, guitarist and keyboardist Greg Rahm, guitarist Eric Hall, and drummer Dean Anshutz) hadn't compromised its sound for a label deal.
"I wanted to remain true to what Red Wanting Blue has been historically," says Terry.
From the Vanishing Point's biggest departure involves the band's method of developing songs. Given their cult-like reputation, it's no surprise that Red Wanting Blue practice a casual writing style, often road-testing new material before entering the studio. These Magnificent Miles exposed the downside of this technique: Fans complained about hearing the songs in concert years ago. "[They] wished there was more to discover," says Terry. "We wanted to keep this [album] close to our chest. With technology these days, I've played a song for the first time, and the next day somebody knows the words already because they saw it on YouTube. You've got to be cloak-and-dagger about what you let people hear."
Red Wanting Blue's long history fueled the release of From the Vanishing Point, which finally came out three weeks ago. Terry first assembled the band when he was a student at Ohio University in 1996, moving to Columbus three years later. The band's reputation as an explosive live draw has grown exponentially, at the same time the quintet has endured the natural growing pains and personnel issues that afflict most groups.
"It takes time to find your sound ... and sometimes to let that sound find you," says Terry. "You're young, you don't know shit, and all you know is you want to play music and you love it.
"As much as you like to think you're going to make a dent in the world, the world dents you right back — and a lot harder."